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Battle heats up over Bangor prohibited areaBattle heats up over Bangor prohibited area

Battle heats up over Bangor prohibited area

Click for larger image
Image from AOPA's Real-Time Flight
shows the TFR that would become
P-51 if the FAA proposal is approved.

Pilots from across the nation are telling the FAA that they don't believe the Navy needs a new prohibited area over the Hood Canal in Washington State. Since AOPA first alerted pilots to the proposal June 28, more than 500 comments have been filed, the majority opposing turning the Bangor TFR into the P-51 prohibited area.

"AOPA has consistently opposed the Bangor TFR in the Puget Sound area because of the adverse operational impact on pilots flying in the area, particularly seaplane pilots using the Hood Canal," said AOPA President Phil Boyer. "And this issue has national implications. The Navy has also asked for a prohibited area over St. Mary's, Georgia. If successful, they will undoubtedly try for more prohibited airspace.

"That's why pilots should still offer comments on the Bangor proposal, even though the official comment period has closed. We need to make it very clear to the federal government that absent a specific, credible threat, pilots expect airspace restrictions to be reduced, not made more severe," Boyer said. (To comment, go to the Document Management System and enter docket number 17178.)

Pilots have been forceful in their comments.

"During the cold war, Bangor was not restricted and changing it now will not improve security," wrote one pilot, echoing the tone of many others.

Instead of turning it into prohibited airspace, AOPA advocates establishing a less restrictive national security area (NSA) over the site. Pilots are asked to voluntarily avoid flying through NSAs under normal circumstances, and notams can be issued to prohibit flight through a given NSA when necessary. An NSA is a much less restrictive solution that satisfies the Navy's legitimate security concerns.

Because of AOPA's advocacy, the Navy has already agreed to turn the other three Puget Sound TFRs into NSAs, and AOPA is telling the FAA that the Bangor TFR should also revert to an NSA.

Pilots agree. One wrote to the FAA, "In the event of a future national emergency that involves airspace, the Navy and Homeland Security have the ability and processes to reinstate restrictions appropriate to the circumstances."

Another said, "As a ranking law enforcement officer in the Puget Sound area, with 32 years of law enforcement experience, I am well aware of the terrorist threat. As an aircraft owner and pilot for 2 1/2 decades, I am well aware of what can and cannot be done with a light airplane.... The establishment of the proposed prohibited area around the Bangor base would not significantly enhance the safety of that facility, it would significantly and unnecessarily impede the normal passage of light aircraft and create an unnecessary and unacceptable safety risk to pilots and passengers, and it would contravene established laws and procedures because it is based on flawed and false information."

August 18, 2004

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